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(This is a full episode review, so a spoiler alert is now issued.)
Hello there, boils and ghouls. Today's story is titled "The Man Who Was Death," the first episode in this beloved 7-season series. It isn't one of the best or most well known episodes, but it is still a creepy story nonetheless.
This episode stars William Sadler, best known for his role as the Grim Reaper in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey, Heywood in The Shawshank Redemption, and Jim in The Mist.
Sadler plays Niles Talbot, who works as an executioner at a local state prison, and who formerly worked as an electrician; managing the generators and what not in the prison. The opening scene is of Sadler narrating the events of an inmate who is being taken off to the electric chair, recalling how the prisoner shot and killed his former boss over not giving him a raise. You almost feel sorry for the inmate as he screams and pleads for his life, claiming that the governor was going to call and pardon him, hoping that would give him a few more minutes to live. Sadler's narration is calm and cool sounding, almost like frying in the Chair isn't such a bad way to go, even while he is describing how the body reacts to being electrocuted.
After Talbot talked a bit more about his life and his job, he goes into a diner where a news broadcast is playing on the television. The newswoman is reporting how the legislature is going through to abolish the death penalty, saying it is too harsh and that it would only bring more crime in the city. This, obviously, worries Talbot since that's his job. Then, as you would guess, the legislation goes through and Talbot is let go from his duty as executioner. At first, Talbot seems to take it rather well, showing no ill will to his boss. And in a little twist of irony, Talbot is unable to work in his previous position. The person there now was someone he trained to replace him as he was promoted to throw the switch.
After having that job for 10+ years, Talbot isn't sure what to do. Electricity is the only thing he has ever known. After sitting at a bar, nursing a few beer bottles and whiskey glasses, Talbot gets an idea. He is still going to be an executioner, while also being the judge and jury. Soon he is stalking people who he sees as guilty of whatever crime that is worthy of being sentenced to death and takes matters into his own hands.
His first victim is a man named Jimmy Flood; a biker who was able to get acquitted of a murder charge due to a technicality. Flood is a scary looking guy, who seems like he could be a part of the Manson Family. Talbot soon finds Flood and fries him with a supercharged electric fence, making it look like some freak accident. You don't see what Flood looks like afterward, but with all the sparks that were flying and how badly he was shaking and trembling, my guess is he was cooked like extra, extra crispy chicken.
Next victims are a couple. Their crime is a classic case of: man has affair, wife has all the money in her name, make poor wifey's death look like an accident, get money, and get off scot-free. And they could've gotten away with it too if it hadn't been for Talbot and his shocking personality. (Pardon the pun.) Talbot soon finds them in their home, lounging in an unknowingly rigged hot tub. Before he pressed the button, the couple starts begging him not hurt them and try to bribe him in the process. Talbot coolly refuses, his expression completely stone-faced. You can tell he isn't feeling any remorse whatsoever in these "justified killings." The death seems like the equivalent of tossing a plugged-in toaster in a bath; the zapping sounds and gurgling are pretty unsettling, to say the least. Not anything super scary, but enough to send a small uncomfortable chill down one's spine.
The third victim Talbot tracks down is of a go-go dancer, set free from the murder of a boyfriend of hers. Talbot is then seen up on the second floor of the club, having hooked jumper cables to the top of the cage the woman is dancing in. Talbot flips the switch and... nothing. The wires had been cut. The door behind him bursts open and it's the police. They arrest him for all the murders he committed, and sadly for him, he doesn't get acquitted like the others in this episode. As he sits in the station, being processed, he is approached by the arresting officer and he gives him another dose of irony. The death penalty has been reinstated, and I'm sure you can guess who isn't pulling the switch this time.
Just like the inmate in the beginning, Talbot is seen being taken to the chair, crying and screaming, begging them not to kill him and saying the governor is going to call and let him go. It is sad seeing Talbot's former coworkers do this to him, and you feel kinda sorry for him like the first man. The episode ends with Talbot getting a taste of his own medicine, grunting and stringing against the currents, his eyes creepily opened and lifeless as smoke escapes through the metal band on his head.
Like I said before, this episode isn't a very memorable one, but it is still a good watch and gives you a pretty good feel about the series as a whole. It is really good with its ironic twists and its "punishment fit the crime" motif. If you're new to the series and want to give it a watch, then this is a good one to start off with.